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8 Comments

  1. You’re probably right, but at the end of the day, who cares? Seems to me that according to just about everyone, the Eastern Seaboard needs a grid upgrade. If you need to Greenwash it to get the job done, well, whatever, right? Someday that same cable could be used to transport plenty of clean, green nuclear power, right?
    When you make kitchen knives, you don’t worry about whether a few people will use those knives to attack other people – people *need* kitchen knives, and you can’t help it if someone mis-uses them. Well, it’s kind of like that with power transmission lines (not that I’m saying anyone is misusing them) – the line should be built because it’s needed, not because it may or may not get most of that power from wind or coal.

    1. Jeff,
      I think the biggest thing that sticks in my craw is that this project will have a huge renewable halo and will suck up a bunch of subsidies. The cable will then be used primarily to deliver coal based electricity to the northeast.
      Bill

    2. @Jeff – you asked “who cares?”
      Apparently, I care. I care enough to dislike dishonesty, to get angry when someone tries to sell me something and deliver something else, and get really angry when people who have plenty take from those who do not have enough.
      If Virginia has cheap power terrific. (Since I now live in Central Virginia, I kind of like that idea.) If the Northeast has high cost power because they have chosen to restrict the supply of low cost nuclear electricity, why should Virginians suffer by having their power exported?
      I cannot remember the first time I heard the phrase “coal by wire”. I know a bit about transmission lines – Dad spent 35 years designing them and bringing his work home with him. Nuclear energy reduces and gives the potential for nearly eliminating the need to build massive transmission capacity because the fuel is so dense that you can simply move the fuel to the power plants.
      If the Northeast wants cheap, clean power, they should think about building a bunch of new nuclear plants, not allowing some scammers to capture government gifts to build undersea transmission lines.

      1. Ok, that’s a fair point. By the way, I wasn’t trying to be quite as crass as I might have come off. I don’t really like dishonesty either, and if this cable gets big subsidies and then is primarly delivering coal (or even nuclear power, since that’s not what the subsidy is for), then I agree, that’s a problem. As far as power-by-wire, though, what’s really the problem with that? I’m not advocating for fuel, but hey, let’s say NJ and NY don’t want nuke plants in their backyards, but Viriginia decides they are willing to build them – then VA benefits from all the jobs created during construction of plants, continues to benefit from a (smaller number of) operational jobs, plus, VA gets to basically export all that power and make tax revenue on it in addition to the jobs those plants provide – it sounds like fairly good deal for VA.
        Although, if it’s coal, I can certainly understand you not wanting to have the environmental problems of more coal plants in your state.
        I live in Ohio, and I’m kind of hoping that Ohio may, in the future, become a net exporter of nuclear power. Right now, we only have 2 nuclear plants – Perry and Davis-Besse. I don’t think those produce enough power with just the two of them to make Ohio a net exporter, but if we built or 4 or 6 more over the coming decade or two, I think that would get us to the point where we could be net exporters. I think such a situation could result in Ohio getting what – hundreds of millions of dollars a year in additional tax revenue, on top of all the jobs it would create?
        All that power would, probably, also once again make Ohio attractive to industry – cheap, reliable energy should, it would seem, provide a good incentive for businesses to locate nearby.
        Anyhow, I don’t think adding additional transmission lines is itself a bad thing, although doing it under pretext is not desirable. As for Google: it might be that Google is being duped, but I don’t really think that Google would pony up Billions of dollars if they thought it was NOT going to be helping wind.
        I do wish Google would consider ponying up Billions to fund a new generation nuclear plant instead – I bet if Google had said they were willing to pay 1/3 or 1/4 the cost for a nuclear plant, a lot of other private capital would have fallen in line behind them to be part of the project. Or perhaps instead of them paying such a large portion of a single plant/reactor, they could have partnered up with some of the nuclear operators – the Billions they plan to spend probably could have payed the ‘fees’ to secure 3 or 4, maybe 5 of the government loan guarantees – they probably could have gotten a nice deal from the utility partners to get a piece of all those nuclear plants – a piece which, for them shelling out 3 or 4 billion up front, probably could have netted them 8 or 10 billion down the road, and provide 5 times the power that the proposed wind-farms will.
        Missed opportunities. . .

  2. May I pose another somewhat off-topic question? I was reading recently about the Stirling Engine concept, which, if my understanding is correct, has a bit higher thermal efficiency than other engine designs (closer to the Carnot efficiency limit)? Has anyone designed a nuclear plant around the sterling engine concept, to increase electrical efficiency? Had you at all considered a Stirling Engine for use in your Adams Atomic Engine?
    I’m not sure, but I imagine the main problem for such a concept might be that a lot of gas turbines of the type you propose for the Adams Atomic Engine are already manufactured for other uses, so economies of scale make it easier/cheaper to obtain that type of turbine, instead of a stirling engine?

    1. Jeff – I thought about the Stirling engine concept, but abandoned that thought when I learned the true state of the art and manufacturing associated with the systems. The largest engine I was able to find that is actually in the market and being sold produces just kilowatts and is not appropriate for a nuclear fission reactor.
      My main goal for Adams Engines was to design a system that attacked the capital and operational costs. Since fuel is cheap, I was (am) willing to give up some thermal efficiency in return for simple, cheap to build and cheap to operate machinery. The nitrogen coolant is a big part of the design process because it allows the use of one of the most common types of heat engines in the market – a simple Brayton cycle gas turbine.
      Those machines have earned their place, but they do not dominate because they are a bit less efficient than choices like diesel engines and they cannot burn cheap hydrocarbons like coal or lignite. Put cheap, emission free nuclear fuel together with simple Brayton cycle machines and you have a system that can win a few economic battles.
      Unfortunately, the only source for the particular type of fuel that I need is now in China and I am not willing to go there.

      1. Rod,
        Ok, I thought it might be something like that. Thanks again for taking the time to read comments and respond. As for the fuel pebbles you need, I’m guessing the only way you’ll find another source for them is if on-shore PBMR electric plants start to get built in Europe, N. America, or S. America, to develop an initial market demand for them. Whoever is the ‘first mover’ in that market, though, will amost certainly have to be willing to buy the fuel from China at least for a while (perhaps a couple decades), while the nascent PBMR ‘industry’ gets bootstrapped.
        I think your PBMR-based ship engine design seems very interesting, but it looks like it might be 20-30 years ahead of its time in terms of economic viability, and also public support. I think we need to get a new generation of nuclear plants built and safely operated. Let’s face it, the nuclear industry is held to a higher standard by the public, whether Ted Rockwell likes being ‘special’ or not – the only way to make the nuclear industry not be perceived to be a ‘special’ risk anymore, I think, is going to be almost perfectly safe operation for about 30-40 years – no Vermont Yankees or Davis-Besses (which weren’t actual disasters, but still shake public confidence to hear about leaks of radioactive material into ground water, or boric acid eating a hole almost entirely through a reactor head).
        But, once the public is comfortable with nuclear on land, you can probably convince them to deploy nuclear at sea – I gotta imagine all the large cargo ships, and cruise ships, taken together, form a pretty significant source of pollution, and also experience pretty significant fuel costs when running on diesel (or whatever chemical fuel they use). It really does make sense to move the large ships away from chemical fuels.

  3. Remember, there’s plenty of nuclear energy in southern Virginia. And Dominion is starting to get the ball rolling on building more plants at North Anna.

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